Monday, October 13, 2014

What a weekend! - part 1

I invariably seem to want to put an exclamation mark at the end of the title to my posts don't I! I can't help it though as there have been so many exciting things happening this year. This weekend was no exception.

On Saturday I got another marathon medal (and what a beauty it is too):

Then on Sunday I headed off to this:

But I'm getting ahead of myself so I'll start with my latest marathon.

Marathon number 37, the Fowlmead Challenge

I was very excited about this event for 2 reasons, it was a new event organised by Traviss Willcox and I had never done one of his events before. Traviss is a very accomplished runner himself, having run over 300 marathons, and he organises events in unusual places and gives fabulous looking medals together with the best goody bag I have ever received. 

The other thing you should know about Traviss is that he's a jolly nice chap with no airs and graces even though he holds the Guinness World Record for the most marathons completed in one year male (114 in 2011 and he only started running in 2009!) and he's also completed 52 marathons each year for the last 3 years.

Having had the warmest September on record with scant rainfall, October has started with rain, rain and more rain so I wasn't surprised when the weather forecast for Saturday was for…..rain!

Throughout the night I heard thunder rumbling around and torrential rain but when I got up it had eased off so I was hopeful that it might not be too bad as I had a journey of about 1hour 45 minutes. I was very glad that I decided to leave a bit more time for travelling as when I got within 10 miles of the venue the sky went black and the rain pelted down. It was so bad that even with my windscreen wipers on double speed it was hard to see but thankfully all the traffic slowed right down to a crawl until it passed. 

When I arrived at the venue it had stopped and the sky was just dull and overcast. I hoped that we'd just have perhaps some light drizzle at the worst. I didn't get my wish though.

The first thing I had to do was phone Mike to let him know I'd arrived safely. He told me that there was torrential rain at home which meant we'd be copping it later as it was moving East towards us. The second thing was a quick toilet break! Then I went to register and collect my number and headed back to grab a coffee and look around the visitor centre as I knew nothing about the area.

Fowlmead Country Park is situated near Deal in Kent on what was originally Betteshanger Colliery. Being a Northern girl myself I had no idea that there were coal mines down here in Kent and so I was interested in the story behind it and there's some information here. There were posters telling the history and I was fascinated to read that as there were no workers with experience of coal mining in the region they had to encourage miners from the North to move down here and they had to pay them much higher wages.

On my way back from the car I met Lord Vader, aka Paul, waving his lightsaber menacingly! We'd had plenty of banter about the Dark Lord knitting and I'd brought some pretty pink yarn and some needles but left them in the car 'cos it was starting to drizzle.

Pink is sooooo your colour Paul!
I should mention that Paul had brought some scrummy banana cake, made with rum and cardamom, for us all to dip into at the aid station. I always make mine with sultanas soaked in rum but the addition of cardamom really added depth to the flavour.

Before the start we had a race briefing from Traviss just explaining how things work and a bit about the route. There had been much debate about whether road shoes or trail shoes would be best and I'd settled on road shoes as the path at the start seemed OK. Traviss announced that it was someone's birthday, so we sang 'Happy Birthday' to her, and also that Vicky Horne had just completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks. Well done Vicky, that's a fantastic achievement and I wish I'd taken a photo of you!

What had attracted me to this event was that it wasn't a race per se with no winners or losers. It was more like the Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland except we were running around a measured route with a time limit of 6 hours. If you wanted to run a marathon then you had to complete 10 laps; 11 laps or more turned it into an ultra marathon. I didn't make my mind up which to go for until the very last lap. I loved that it was such a wonderfully inclusive event with runners of all abilities.

As always I started near the back so I didn't hold up the faster runners. After a couple of miles I saw Lord Vader up ahead but noticed that his left shoelaces had come undone and were flapping around and so I speeded up a bit to tell him as they could have caused him to trip. 

I didn't take any photos until the last lap on account of the rain which started after the first lap. It was rather heavy and we all got soaked to the skin. At least it wasn't cold so it didn't bother me as once you're wet you can't get any wetter. It did, however, create lots of puddles which you either splashed through or tiptoed around. Whichever way you chose you still got wet feet as the grass at the side was sodden too!

There were signs reminding us to watch out for cyclists and there was a group of mountain bikers out early on, scrambling up and down the tracks. It was lovely to see several younger cyclists amongst them and they all looked as if they were having fun despite the adverse weather conditions.

Once the heavy rain stopped it was OK with just the odd shower to keep us nice and wet. Then after a few hours the clouds started to clear and the sun came out to dry us off. Here's one of the squishiest bits which didn't look too bad by the time I took this as the water drained away quite well. It was quite slippery though and I did wish I'd opted for my trail shoes on some of the undulating bits. Everyone had dark grey splashes all over their legs and I had to wipe myself down before I got in the car.

Squelching through the slag heaps!
The next batch of photos are from my last lap when the sun was shining and everywhere looked so much better. I'd decided that I wouldn't go beyond the marathon distance of 26.2 miles as I had a long journey home and needed a rest before the excitement of the next day.

Slag heaps, which Traviss informs me have been left without vegetation deliberately as some ground-nesting birds prefer this terrain

One of the many areas of water

Lord Vader and Vicky (sorry I didn't get a front view!). Unfortunately the force had deserted him around the halfway point but he still carried on to complete the marathon distance

Bonnie the dog, and Carolyn, completed the full marathon distance and looked as if she could have run much further when I saw them at the finish!
The last 2 photos are of the other important members of the team:

Rachel, who recorded each lap for all the runners and cheered us on. Each runner had to ring the bell when they had done as many laps as they wanted.

Traviss's lovely daughter Elanor (named after a flower in Tolkien - Traviss is a massive Tolkien fan), on the left, and helper who kept us supplied with cake/biscuits/chocolate etc throughout the day even though they got soaked too!
That really was a super event and I must show the medal again as it is serious bling, measuring a whopping 10cm across:

As if that wasn't reward enough, the goody bag was exceptional and had all the things a runner wants after a marathon (forget the isotonic drinks/energy bars/leaflets about upcoming events) - it had chocolates (lots of!!!), crisps, cider, cheesy biscuits & sweeties. I managed to ignore the chocolate & cider until I got home as I wanted to share them with Mike but I did scoff the crisps and cheesy biscuits before I set off.

Thank you Traviss, Rachel and team. I can't wait to do my next marathon with you soon.

My legs felt fine at the finish but when I started driving I felt some discomfort at the top of my right hamstring which seemed to be irritated by my driving position. Mary Massage Lady had done some work on it the week before and I was pleased that I hadn't experienced any discomfort during the marathon. After about 30 minutes of driving it was really hurting but thankfully I remembered that I had a couple of cushions in the boot of the car (doesn't everyone?!) and so I stopped and stuck one on my seat which helped alleviate the pain.

I did worry that it might be a bit niggly the next day as the coach journey to Ally Pally took 2.5 hours, but it was OK and I think the 5 hours of walking around the show stretched it out nicely!


Anne said...

Congratulation on finishing yet another marathon! :-) Sounds like a fun and well organized event!

Take care

Susie Hewer said...

Thanks Anne! It was indeed great fun and very well organised.